We don’t need these militarized agencies

Published on Monday, 25 August 2014 00:13 - Written by

There’s some healthy discussion now about demilitarizing the police. This is the result of people seeing scenes from Ferguson, Missouri’s police in military gear facing down protesters.

Now let’s talk about demilitarizing the nation’s regulatory agencies. Because does the Food and Drug Administration really need SWAT teams to enforce milk pasteurization rules?

John Fund reported in National Review last spring that many federal agencies have militarized enforcement arms.

“Dozens of federal agencies now have Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams to further an expanding definition of their missions,” Fund points out. “It’s not controversial that the Secret Service and the Bureau of Prisons have them. But what about the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? All of these have their own SWAT units and are part of a worrying trend towards the militarization of federal agencies — not to mention local police forces.”

Fund listed a few notable examples.

“Take the case of Kenneth Wright, of Stockton, Calif., who was ‘visited’ by a SWAT team from the U.S. Department of Education in June 2011,” Fund reported. “Agents battered down the door of his home at 6 a.m., dragged him outside in his boxer shorts, and handcuffed him as they put his three children (ages 3, 7, and 11) in a police car for two hours while they searched his home. The raid was allegedly intended to uncover information on Wright’s estranged wife, Michelle, who hadn’t been living with him and was suspected of college financial-aid fraud.”

That’s right — student loan fraud.

And in 2010, according to Fund, “a SWAT team from the Food and Drug Administration raided the farm of Dan Allgyer, of Lancaster, Pa. His crime was shipping unpasteurized milk across state lines to a cooperative of young women with children in Washington, D.C., called Grass Fed on the Hill. Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The raid forced Allgyer to close down his business.”

Brian Walsh, of the Heritage Foundation, points out that more than 80 federal agencies have armed officers. These include the “Department of Agriculture, Railroad Retirement Board, Bureau of Land Management, Tennessee Valley Authority, Office of Personnel Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” he said.

“If these agencies occasionally have a legitimate need for force to execute a warrant, they should be required to call a real law enforcement agency, one that has a better sense of perspective,” Walsh contends. “The FBI, for example, can draw upon its vast experience to determine whether there is an actual need for a dozen SWAT agents. Too many federal agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and authorizing statutes are intent on ‘solving’ problems through criminal investigation, prosecution and punishment.”

It’s good we’re having a national conversation about how militarized our local police forces should be. But let’s not stop there.

Let’s reconsider how militarizes federal agencies such as the Railroad Retirement Agency should be, as well.